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Movies Starring Women Earn More Than Male-Led Films, Study Finds

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“Trolls.” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” “Moana.” “Inside Out.” “Wonder Woman.” All were global box-office hits that had women in leading roles.

They were also part of a broader trend. According to findings from the Creative Artists Agency andt shift7, a company started by the former United States chief technology officer Megan Smith, the top movies from 2014 to 2017 starring women earned more than male-led films, whether they were made for less than $10 million or for $100 million or more.

The research also found that films that passed the Bechdel test — which measures whether two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man — outperformed those that flunked it.

“The perception that it’s not good business to have female leads is not true,” said Christy Haubegger, a C.A.A. agent who was part of the research team. “They’re a marketing asset.”

[Read our critics’ top 10 films of the year.]

Casting women in leading roles is still more the exception than the rule in Hollywood. Women accounted for about a quarter of sole protagonists in the top films of 2017, and they played roughly a third of major characters, according to research from San Diego State University.

The new report from C.A.A., a leading talent agency, is part of an effort to pressure Hollywood into putting more women and people of color onscreen and behind the scenes, with proponents arguing that greater diversity improves the bottom line. In 2017, the agency released a report indicating that movies with multiethnic casts performed better on opening weekends than those with more homogeneous casts. The new study was created in conjunction with a working group from Time’s Up, an organization fighting workplace sexual harassment; the working group aims to improve the portrayal of women onscreen.

The question now is whether the industry will take heed. The San Diego State University study also found that the number of female protagonists with speaking roles in top films dropped in 2017 from the previous year. The new statistics from C.A.A. suggests that the makers of those films might be hurting their earnings.

“A lot of times in our business there is a lot of bias disguising itself as knowledge,” Haubegger said.

The C.A.A. and shift7 report looked at the top films at the global box office each year from 2014 through 2017, using information from Gracenote, a data and technology provider owned by Nielsen. (The time frame was based on a database C.A.A. created for its diversity study.) “Lead actor” was determined by the performer listed first on Gracenote. This meant that both “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” were designated male-led films: Gracenote listed Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill as the leads for each, rather than Daisy Ridley. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was led by Megan Fox and “Trolls” by Anna Kendrick.

The analysis was based on 350 films with budgets listed on Gracenote. Of those, 105 were led by women and 245 by men. The data was further broken down by budget size, partly because the tentpole films made for more than $100 million are a key part of studio business and the study’s authors decided that they needed to be considered on their own. (In that category, there were 75 male-led films and 19 films starring women.) The other categories were films made for less than $10 million, $10 million to $30 million, $30 million to $50 million and $50 million to $100 million.

In each bracket, the average earnings for female-led films surpassed those of their male-led counterparts. The median value, or numerical middle, which is often considered more statistically significant because it reduces the impact of outliers, yielded the same results, with one exception: In the $30 million to $50 million category, the median take for male-led films was $104 million, and for women it was $102 million.

The study also drew information from Bechdeltest.com, which had applied the test to 319 of the films analyzed in the C.A.A. report. Of those, 60 percent passed. The researchers found that no film between 2014 and 2017 earned $1 billion without passing the Bechdel test and that no film has made $1 billion without passing the test since 2012.

While women account for about half of movie tickets sold, Haubegger said she believed the greater success of films starring women and people of color can be attributed to a thirst for fresh storylines. “You’ve got superhero fans that haven’t seen innovation in superhero movies in 36 years,” she said.

Haubegger also said the perception that such films are risky means they face more studio scrutiny from the outset. “I think they’re less likely to take a bet on a turkey,” she said, “And the movie ends up punching at or above its weight class.”

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satadru
2 days ago
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New York, NY
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sirshannon
1 day ago
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weird. It's almost as if the excuses were just excuses stated as facts with zero research.

AP: Ivanka, Kushner could profit from tax break they pushed

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WASHINGTON (AP) — At an Oval Office gathering earlier this year, President Donald Trump began touting his administration’s new real estate investment program, which offers massive tax breaks to developers who invest in downtrodden American communities. He then turned to one of the plan’s strongest supporters.

“Ivanka, would you like to say something?” Trump asked his daughter. “You’ve been pushing this very hard.”

The Opportunity Zone program promoted by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner — both senior White House advisers — could also benefit them financially, an Associated Press investigation found.

Government watchdogs say the case underscores the ethical minefield they created two years ago when they became two of the closest advisers to the president without divesting from their extensive real estate investments.

Trump and Kushner jointly own a big stake in a real estate investment firm, Cadre, that recently announced it is launching a series of Opportunity Zone funds that seek to build major projects under the program from Miami to Los Angeles. Separately, the couple owns interests in at least 13 properties held by Kushner’s family firm that could qualify for the tax breaks because they are in Opportunity Zones in New Jersey, New York and Maryland — all of which, a study found, were already coming back.

Six of the Kushner Cos. buildings are in New York City’s Brooklyn Heights area, with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline, where a five-bedroom apartment recently listed for $8 million. Two more are in the beach town of Long Branch, N.J., where some oceanfront condos within steps of a white-tablecloth Italian restaurant and a Lululemon yoga shop list for as much as $2.7 million.

There’s no evidence the couple had a hand in selecting any of the nation’s 8,700 Opportunity Zones, and the company has not indicated it plans to seek tax breaks under the new program. But the Kushners could profit even if they don’t do anything — by potentially benefiting from a recent surge in Opportunity Zone property values amid a gold rush of interest from developers and investors.

Ivanka Trump’s advocacy for the Opportunity Zone program “creates a direct conflict of interest with her spouse’s investment in Cadre,” said Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel for the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Jared Kushner’s interests are Ivanka Trump’s interests and vice versa.”

The couple’s financial disclosures show their jointly held financial empire is worth between $200 million and $800 million, with much of it in real estate, including a stake of between $25 million and $50 million in Cadre. Those documents state they must recuse themselves from dealing with policy matters that touch on real estate and “would have a direct and predictable effect on Cadre.” Ivanka Trump also has interests in Trump Organization properties which are not located inside Opportunity Zones.

“Ms. Trump has divested assets, set up trusts, removed herself from businesses and decisions about her investments,” Abbe Lowell, ethics counsel for the couple, said in a statement. “In addition, she adheres to the ethics advice she has received from counsel about what issues she can work on and those to which she is recused.”

The Kushner Cos. did not respond to requests for comment.

President Trump was scheduled to attend an Opportunity Zone event in Washington on Wednesday that would depict the program as a boon to distressed communities. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told the AP that individual state governors of both parties nominate communities for Opportunity Zone designation “based on what underserved areas would benefit most. ... The White House has nothing to do with those decisions.”

The Investing in Opportunity Act, which became law last December as part of the Republican-sponsored tax overhaul, never gained traction when it was first proposed during the Obama administration, but it quickly found favor in a White House headed and dominated by real estate developers and investors.

A significant moment came when the law’s key GOP sponsor, South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, met President Trump after the violence-plagued white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of 2017.

Trump promised Scott his support for Opportunity Zones as a way to show his administration’s outreach to minority communities. But Scott had already found a supporter weeks earlier in Trump’s daughter, in conversations that grew out of previous meetings about passing a child care tax credit.

Political sponsors and lobbyists told the AP that Ivanka Trump played an important role in promoting the legislation, while Kushner was also quietly supportive behind the scenes.

“Ivanka was on board with it,” said Sean Smith, Scott’s communications director. After their first conversation, Smith said Scott and Ivanka Trump talked by phone and in person nearly a dozen times. He added that Scott also spoke to Kushner about the program, but noted, “It was much more Ivanka than Jared.”

A team from Economic Innovation Group, or EIG, a Washington think tank that pioneered the Opportunity Zones concept, met with top Kushner aides Reed Cordish and Chris Liddell two weeks before the tax reform bill was passed.

Funded by Napster founder and early Facebook investor Sean Parker, EIG spent more than $1.4 million on lobbying over the past two years, both before and after the Investing in Opportunity Act passed. The group met with White House officials every quarter since the start of the Trump administration, and also met with frequently with officials from Treasury and other White House agencies, records show.

“Creating the incentive to bring capital into communities that are currently being overlooked is just a tremendous opportunity,” Ivanka Trump said as her father and a crowd of supporters nodded during the White House session February 14.

Last month, at a dinner in Washington put on by the conservative Kemp Foundation, Scott singled out Ivanka Trump as his point person on the initiative. “When we were looking for help to get the tax bill across the finish line,” he said, “I kept looking to the same person for help in the White House.”

There is no indication the couple directly intervened in the shaping of the Opportunity Zone program specifically to advance their financial interests. And public officials say there is no evidence that any actions were taken to influence the selection of Opportunity Zone boundaries.

But backers of the program acknowledge that Ivanka Trump’s out-front role drummed up interest from public officials and financial stakeholders.

Along with the Kushner-tied Cadre Opportunity Zone funds, more than 50 real estate and private equity interests have made plans in recent weeks to create investment funds under the program, including several with ties to the couple and the Trump administration.

Last month, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci launched an opportunity zone fund tied to his Skybridge Capital investment firm, aiming to build projects worth more than $3 billion. Opportunity Zone funds have also been set up recently by New York-based Normandy Real Estate Partners and Heritage Equity Partners, two firms that have worked with Kushner Cos. on real estate ventures.

They are flocking to what financial analysts say are some of the most generous tax benefits they have ever seen. Investors who plow capital gains from previous investments into Opportunity Zone projects can defer taxes on those gains up to 2026. If they decide not to cash out their investment for seven years, they get to exclude up to 15 percent of those gains from taxes. And they can permanently avoid paying taxes on any new gains from investment in the zones if they hold onto the investment for a decade. With capital gains taxes as high as 23.8 percent, the savings can easily add up.

Government officials have estimated the program would cost $1.5 billion in lost tax revenue over 10 years, but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has estimated the zones would attract up to $100 billion in renewal efforts.

While the Opportunity Zone program mostly targets census tracts of high poverty and unemployment, it also allows “contiguous” tracts that might not be low-income, but are close enough to deprived communities to be eligible.

Critics say that could allow developers to cash in by targeting zones already teeming with investment and gentrified neighborhoods. Amazon’s recent decision to locate a new headquarters in the bustling New York City neighborhood of Long Island City, for example, drew rebukes following reports it was in an Opportunity Zone.

A study by the Urban Institute in Washington found that nearly a third of the more than 8,700 Opportunity Zones nationwide — and all 13 of the ones containing Kushner properties — were showing signs of heavy investment and gentrification, based on such factors as rent increases and the percentage of college-educated residents.

The Kushners’ most immediate advantage could come from their investment in Cadre. CEO Ryan Williams announced late last month that Cadre was starting up an Opportunity Zone fund that would aim to build major development projects in designated areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Miami.

The company said the program “fits with Cadre’s commitment to identifying opportunities in less-advantaged areas that are primed for growth.”

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acdha
2 days ago
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Washington, DC
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sirshannon
2 days ago
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Inconceivable.

Muting Gas Station Ads

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Eric Ravenscraft (via Eric Schwarz):

Whether your pump advertises it or not, however, there’s a handy way to shut the dang thing up. There’s an array of buttons along the side of the screen. One of these buttons (usually) mutes the ads. Which one is anyone’s guess, as different companies choose a different mute button. To figure out which one, just start at the top and start pressing each button until you find the one that gives you the blissful silence you’re looking for.

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sirshannon
3 days ago
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Spoiler alert: it is the 2nd from top on the right.

Surveillance Capitalism BBC Video Test

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Recently, I recorded a video on Surveillance Capitalism with BBC Ideas. The video is available as an iframe embed, as shown above, so I ran our inspector tool from Better to see what, if any, trackers get included with it when you include it on your own site.

Turns out there is a third-party tracker included with the embed: Chartbeat.

How’s that for irony?

If you visit the BBC Ideas page to watch the video there, you will also be tracked by AT Internet.

So, what is Surveillance Capitalism?

It’s this.

It’s the mainstream.

It’s the BBC exposing you to third-party tracking by two companies: Chartbeat and AT Internet when you watch videos about surveillance capitalism either on their site or on third-party sites that embed the videos.

Here’s hoping that when the folks at the BBC see this that they will have an internal debate about their policies and, at the very least disable the inclusion of a third-party tracking service in video embeds so that innocent people who just want to share videos are not made complicit in web tracking and profiling.

As for all of you looking for ethical alternatives to surveillance-based video services for your own content, check out Peertube.

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Facebook lured charities to its platform, then abandoned them once they got hacked

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Facebook's walled garden/roach motel strategy made it progressively harder and harder for charities to reach supporters on the web, driving them within Facebook's confines, where they devoted thousands of hours to making their Facebook presence attractive and pleasing to Facebook's algorithm.

Facebook rewarded them with a "Donate" button that could be used to raise funds directly within Facebook -- which increased donations and also provided one more way for Facebook to lock in its users and surveil their actions.

But as charities started to fall prey to hackers who used phishing and social engineering to repeatedly take over the charities' accounts and steal the donations destined for them, Facebook was AWOL, refusing to answer increasingly desperate pleas from charities who sometimes found themselves blackmailed by hackers who threatened to delete the charities' pages altogether unless they diverted their donations to the hackers by way of ransom.

Some charities got shut down by Facebook, when the hackers who took over the accounts did shady things that triggered Facebook's fraud-detection. Again, nobody was home at Facebook to help these charities get their accounts back.

Wired traces the story of two charities that finally got their accounts secured and undid the damage that the hackers had done -- but only by raising such a stink that a Facebook Vice President got the company's PR department to sort them out.

Remember this the next time someone calls for Facebook to stop harassment or hate speech: this is a company that doesn't pick up the phone when a hacker steals thousands of dollars from a charity. Once we ask it to start algorithms to decide what is and isn't acceptable speech, they'll make billions of mistakes, blocking everything from messages of condolences after a tragic death to urgent political messages on the eve of elections, and it will take months or years to get those decisions reviewed, and in many cases, you'll never get justice.

After WIRED reached out to Facebook in early October, an employee from the social network’s communications department also contacted Alana to ensure that her account was secure, according to emails. But Alana’s problems weren't over. Numerous fake Facebook accounts soon began appearing that impersonated people who worked for the shelter, or their friends and family. The harassment was exhausting, and it didn't stop until Alana transferred $1,500 to the hacker via an anonymous PayPal account—the same amount the fake GoFundMe had raised before it was shut down and the money returned to donors. Since then, Alana says, she and the shelter's Facebook page have been left alone.

But Alana is still bewildered by how difficult it was to reach a real person at the company. “Facebook needs to have some kind of customer service department,” she says. “PayPal has one, Amazon has one, eBay has one. There is zero reason for them to not have one.”

Facebook says it provides plenty of support.

Facebook Exposes Nonprofits to Donors—and Hackers [Louise Matsakis/Wired]

(Image: Howard Lake, Alessio Jacona, CC-BY-SA)

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satadru
9 days ago
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New York, NY
freeAgent
8 days ago
Facebook does not actually care to do anything that causes them to need human employees doing anything other than coding or figuring out how to leverage their users' data for more ad revenue. Need support? Good luck with that.
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sirshannon
5 days ago
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Yep.

Community Standards

jwz
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Andy Ternay:

Pretty much says everything that needs to be said about Facebook.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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acdha
10 days ago
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Washington, DC
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sirshannon
5 days ago
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You know the deal.
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